Numerous wise folks tell us that one should collect experiences in life, not material goods. I have been an early convert to this philosophy. Having been brought up in a family that did not care much for collecting material goods, this is not surprising. Also, I live in in a town next to Concord where Henry David Thoreau conducted his experiment of living with bare minimum. His influence has further fortified my belief.
This idea is now becoming mainstream. Call it the beginning of the post-materialism era.
For example, the business world has started to capitalize on helping their clients “collect experiences” much the same way they would material goods. If you go to the Airbnb website, you can browse experiences as a category along with homes and restaurants. In that category you would find bike rides, history walks, craft class or intimate concerts. Purchasing an experience will let you participate in an activity for a fee. The experience of meeting an interesting local person in a strange city no longer has to be left to chance; the seller of that experience will make sure that you do meet one, no matter how contrived the whole thing feels.
Materialism is defined as preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects and consideration with a disinterest or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values. I hereby coin the word “experiencism” as a similar obsession with experiences, bought or otherwise. Just as a materialist brags about possessing an exclusive piece of furniture, we experiencists will make a big deal out of the experience of having an exclusive access to an artist.
The parallels between materialism and experiencism are striking. A materialist will compare himself/herself with the others based on what he/she owns. “My car is better than your, or this dresser I got from my grandfather is far more valuable than the IKEA thing you have.” The experiencist will boast about the authenticity of his experience compared to yours because he went to Venice in 1970’s before the hoards of tourists arrived. “My experience was better than yours.” Just as a materialist will gloss over the fact that he has to worry about his expensive car being stolen or grandfather’s dresser being totally unusable because the drawers are falling off, the experiencist will not tell you about any unpleasantness associated with the acquisition of his experience — — atrocious weather or being fleeced by a waiter.
In the end it is all about ego. Even though gaining experiences is a better way to enjoy life than acquiring material goods, at least according to people like me, we can turn even that into a way to establish our superiority over others.